oil painting- advice please

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  1. #1
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    oil painting- advice please

    Hello, I've been doing some colour practices in oils lately, from life. The problem is everything is looking wishy-washy and grayed out. I've got the feeling I'm not defining the forms enough and I'm using too much white. But I'm not sure how to change things, I don't want this way of painting to become a habit.

    Here's what I've used:

    linen style oil paper
    hog bristle size 10, sable flat size 8, synthetic filbert size 4, synthetic rigger size 2
    turps
    phalo blue, chrome yellow, crimson, titanium white (yellow ochre and raw umber too for the gate picture)

    The two still lives were painted indoors at night with just a regular bulb. The plein air one was done this morning.

    I start of by drawing in the basic forms with raw umber and turps, sometimes rubbing in some raw umber for a base. Then I put down one thin layer of colour and do the final layer with thicker paint. The jar and fruit took 2 hours, the pears 1/2 hr and the plein air 2 hours.

    Any advice on how to improve in general would be much appreciated, thanks.

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  4. #2
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    Nice work...if they feel "wishy-washy" and greyed out, it's because you're using paint that's too slippery on a slippery surface. Let them dry for a week and then go back and put in some more time on each one....this time, use an absolute MINIMUM of thinner (or other medium.) Keep the paint as DRY as you possibly can and carefully establish the contours, keeping the color as clean as possible.

    Also--next time, get some gesso and prime the painting surface yourself. Commercial oil-papers and pre-primed canvases have an unpleasantly slick feel that I personally (for whatever it's worth) simply can't stand. You're likely to find you have VASTLY more control with a more absorbent substrate.

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    Giacomo: Thanks. That's good advice, and I can easily go back to these subjects.

    This is the paper I was using,

    http://www.jacksonsart.com/Art_Depar...duct_info.html

    I used to use cheap cotton canvas, but it was far too absorbent, you're right in that the papers surface in this case is slick- the paint just tends to sit on top of the surface. I'm going to try to add a layer of gesso as you've suggested and try it out. I would like to get some boards and prime them myself too, but it's difficult to know where to start- there are so many different types of surface out there. thanks again.

    art blog: http://hrartwork.blogspot.co.uk/


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    Unprimed canvas is WAAAAY too absorbent for most oil painting. The key with gesso is do diliute it with a little water, cover the canvas, wait til it dries, then sand it smooth with (reasonably-fine-grit) sandpaper. Between adjusting the dilution of the gesso and the number of layers, you can pretty much get any finish you want.

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    Color looks all right, but the brushwork could use some work. It's kind of haphazard, does not quite describe the form, and you were consistently using smaller brushes than you should have.

    Have you seen the "Brushwork" book by Weber?

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    giacomo: the cotton canvas was primed, but it was cheap, so probably not enough layers of primer. Thanks for the advice about gesso.

    arenhaus: You're right, I do feel as though I use too many brush strokes, I'll get some larger brushes and put more paint on the brush to mark with one stroke. I haven't heard of 'brushwork' by Weber, I've done a quick search on amazon and there are two, which one are you referring to? 'brushwork essentials' or 'bold strokes'?

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    Last edited by LaCan; July 14th, 2014 at 06:32 AM.
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    Thanks for the advice Lacan, much appreciated.

    And you're right, I wasn't thinking of things in terms of light and dark- it's interesting to see things reduced to those factors. Thank you, I'll practice this approach in my next paintings/ drawings.

    art blog: http://hrartwork.blogspot.co.uk/


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    Quote Originally Posted by black-swan View Post
    You're right, I do feel as though I use too many brush strokes, I'll get some larger brushes and put more paint on the brush to mark with one stroke. I haven't heard of 'brushwork' by Weber, I've done a quick search on amazon and there are two, which one are you referring to? 'brushwork essentials' or 'bold strokes'?
    "Brshwork Essentials". I have not seen the other one, so either might work.

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    I'm kind of wondering about whether there is a color palette issue as well, whether the colors you chose would even allow you to push to get to the fullest range of lights and darks? I know raw umber can do a nice range of values, but the Phtalo Blues I have always come across have been mid-range blues tops... something darker may help you stretch out your value range better.

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    arenhaus: thanks, I've ordered it now, should be interesting.

    ClockworkLives: Thanks for your advice. The phtalo blue I use is pretty dark, I think my main problem as far as the colour palette is concerned is white getting into everything- and lack of a clear pattern of light and dark as LaCan mentioned. I have used prussian blue instead of phtalo at times and the same problems occur.

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    I didn't notice until just now that you were using a phthalo as your main blue...Phthalo and Prussian blues are just FEROCIOUS in the way they tend to overwhelm any color they're mixed with. Hardly any of the working artists I know use them as a basic blue. I'd STRONGLY suggest you use Ultramarine Blue instead.

    Using a broader palette will allow you more opportunity to lighten and darken tones without having to add white. Just FYI, this is the palette I work with when I'm painting in oil:

    Earth Tones:
    Naples Yellow
    Yellow Ochre
    Venetian Red or other red-oxide
    Burnt Sienna
    Burnt Umber
    Black
    White

    Transparent Colors:
    Alizarin Crimson
    Ultramarine Blue
    Viridian Green

    If I'm painting human flesh I also use Cadmium Red Medium and Cadmium Orange Medium.

    Hope that is of some use.

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    Giacomo: Thanks, you're right about the phthalo and prussian blues, you have to be very careful with how much you add to your mixtures and if there is traces of them on your brush, then everything takes a bluish cast. I'll try out ultramarine blue.

    Your earth tones are similar to the Zorn palette, it's surprising how much range you can get out of the earth colours.

    I've just been trying to keep things as simple as possible palette-wise, hence sticking mainly with the primaries so far. I'm going plein air painting this thursday in a hilly area, I'll try including more earth tones on the palette and ultramarine blue- see how it goes. Thanks again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by black-swan View Post
    I've just been trying to keep things as simple as possible palette-wise, hence sticking mainly with the primaries so far.
    Trying to get accurate color by mixing primaries is extremely difficult...it presents a lot of additional work and is just a drain of resources for a beginner. (Not to mention, there's no real benefit I can see to doing it.) The palette I listed above will, I think, work a lot better for you colorwise.

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    Giacomo: I've never thought of it in that way, this thread has been really insightful. In a lot of art books and in school I was encouraged just to use red, yellow, blue and white. What you're saying makes sense, I suppose it takes longer to reach the colour you want too, especially not ideal with fleeting weather conditions.

    Last edited by Mana16; February 19th, 2013 at 05:12 PM.
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  25. #16
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    Using a limited palette is a way to ease the student into color. At first you paint in black and white, to practice painting value. Then you add red ochre, giving you a range of cool and warm grays sufficient to practice portraits. And so on. You only paint in full color after you practice enough with limited palette, under this plan.

    Of course, there had been artists who painted with a very limited palette all their life, and quite successfully. Check out Anders Zorn.

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  27. #17
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    Arenhaus: I've been doing monochrome studies in raw umber and white, I've used the zorn palette before too and I really admire the range Anders Zorn got from those colours. I'm also at my third bargue drawing, and soon I'll be moving onto cast drawings in charcoal. I've still got a long way to go with everything, but I feel if you don't start practicing at what you're interested now you'll never get there. So I am doing the basics too, but I want to experiment with colour as well.

    So when I go out next, i'm going to try out using 2 different types of each primary, a few earth colours, maybe a green, black and white. And I'm going to arrange it according to the lightness or darkness of the pigment and try to think more in terms of value masses.

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    Last edited by LaCan; July 14th, 2014 at 06:33 AM.
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  30. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaCan View Post
    However, there *is* a primary palette that lets you mix almost anything. It's; cyan, magenta and yellow. You can experiment with this to see what you can squeeze out of it.
    There is also a double primary triad palette, with cool and warm triads. Cadmium yellow light, ultramarine, cool azo red / alizarin, and yellow ochre, phthalo blue, and burnt ochre / burnt sienna. It mixes a much wider range of colors, including good greens and earths that are not possible with just one triad.

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  32. #20
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    Thanks for all the advice. I decided to use 2 of each primary- one warm, one cool. Raw umber, white and black. I've included some of yesterdays plein air work and a still life study- I'm trying to think more in terms of tonal composition and will continue to experiment with it and use it as a basis for drawing and painting pictures. Thanks again.

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